Pack a quick and easy picnic with these healthy picnic foods! Spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying the outdoors!
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Picnic season is here and I am so excited! As soon as the temperature starts to warm up, almost all of our afternoons will be spent out of doors, either in our backyard or at a nearby park.
At least once or twice a week, we finish up our morning chores and lessons, throw together a quick picnic, and head to the zoo, to a dock, or to a favorite watering hole to picnic and play.
This has been our routine for years now, and I have gotten really good at assembling lunches that are both easy and still healthy. (This isn’t to say that we never grab fast food, but it’s not something I want to be dependent on most of the time).
I do occasionally bake a batch of muffins or, more recently, a few loaves of sourdough on the weekend, or in the morning while I make breakfast. But, I still NEED to have a variety of other options that can be put together in fifteen minutes or less.
I put together a list of over thirty different ideas for picnic food that are just grab-and-go. Some of them are obvious, but the point is to not feel like you’re always taking the same ol’ thing every time you go out. Look over this list, save it for future reference, and add a little variety to your picnic life this summer!
WANT MORE LIKE THIS? Check out my Family Adventuring page for ideas on how to pack the car, what to eat for dinner after adventures, summer mom hacks, and more. You can also follow me on Instagram for regular lunch inspiration and tips and tricks.
OUR FAVORITE PICNIC GEAR
Almost just as important as what you’re going to eat on your picnic is how you’re going to transport it. As a self-proclaimed picnic-pro, I can tell you from lots of experience that all the items on this list have been tested and tried at the beach/zoo/park/dock/road trip/etc! Plus, they’re all reusable, so you can feel good about not creating a lot of extra waste.
- Backpack Cooler Bag (I went through half a dozen different coolers and picnic baskets before settling on this backpack cooler. It’s a great size and so easy to transport)
- Plastic food containers with lids (I like to use glass containers at home for food storage, but prefer plastic for picnics to cut down on the weight of what we are carrying. Plastic containers are great for items like sandwiches, salad, watermelon/fruit salad, etc that you don’t want to get “smooshed”)
- Plastic mason jar lids (love the colors and the fact that these can double as little plates)
- Grove Reusable Bags (I have a stack of these in three different sizes. I use them all the time and love that they are reusable)
- Jar Jackets— half pint, pint, & 1.5 pint (these are perfect for slipping onto mason jars to keep them from breaking while you’re out)
- Victorinox Paring Knives Trio (always keep a paring knife on hand in my picnic bag!)
- silicon drink lids and straws (these are so convenient for adding a quick lid to jars or cups for younger children)
- Hydrocell water bottles (my kids and I each have one of these in a different color)
- Tea Towels (I like to use these for tablecloths and in lieu of plates)
- Small mason jars (great containers for yogurt parfaits, homemade pudding cups, applesauce, etc)
- Short and squat mason jars (perfect containers for dips and spreads)
30+ Healthy Grab and Go Picnic Foods
A little of this, a little of that is the idea here. Generally, I aim for a variety–making sure we have enough protein to feel full, at least one or two fruits and vegetables, and something for snacking in the in-between times.
Keep your fridge and pantry stocked with some of these foods (and save the easy recipes), and you’ll be ready for adventure at the drop of a hat. Another good idea is to go ahead and fill up a few mason jars with ranch, hummus, spreadable cheese, salsa, etc, at the beginning of the week so you can just pull them out when you need them and return them to the fridge when you’re back home.
Many items on this list are foods that I buy at Costco. Once picnic season starts, I also start buying more convenience foods because I know it will pay off in being able to pack healthy picnics and avoid fast food while we are out.
DIPS & SPREADS
- Best Ever Homemade Ranch
- Perfect Creamy Peanut Butter
- Amazing Fresh Salsa
- One-Minute Guacamole or I like to keep Wholly Guacamole packets in the freezer
- hummus (recipe in my cookbook)
- pimento cheese
- Our Favorite Tuna Salad
- cream cheese plus jam
- easy barbecue dipping sauce
- Cheese slices/sticks/Babybel
- deli meat
- assorted nuts
- dried fruit
- pickle spears
- fresh bread
FRUIT & VEG
- frozen pineapple
- fresh or frozen grapes
- watermelon chunks
- carrot sticks/baby carrots
- sweet pepper slices
- cherry tomatoes
LESS THAN 15-MINUTE PREP
- hard boiled eggs
- yogurt cups (yogurt + a dollop of jam…so easy!)
- tortilla roll-ups (with peanut butter & banana slices, or cream cheese & jam, or deli meat…)
- peanut butter & jelly sandwiches
- pasta salad (easy Margherita Pasta Salad–pictured above, or Fruity Couscous recipes in the lunch chapter of my cookbook)
- fruit & veg smoothies
- Sweet Broccoli Salad
QUICK SNACK FOOD
- pretzels (pair with peanut butter or ranch)
- rice cakes (pair with peanut butter)
- tortilla chips (pair with salsa or guacamole)
- crackers (pair with tuna salad, chicken salad, pimento cheese, or cheese & meat)
- fruit & veg pouches (Costco has a great one we love)
- veggie straws
BONUS IDEAS :: MAKE-AHEAD AND PICNIC ALL WEEK
- 5-minute pudding cups
- Easy Homemade Chicken Salad
- Muffins (Carrot raisin muffins— pictured above, chocolate zucchini muffins, nutty blueberry muffins, banana nut, and raisin date walnut muffins are some of our picnic favorites)
- Homemade Banana Bread (so great to make the morning of, then eat with peanut butter on your picnic!)
- French Bread (made into three thin loaves), Sourdough Boule (more sourdough info here), or store-bought baguettes
- One-Hour Focaccia
I’d also love to hear what your favorite picnic foods are, because we could always use new ideas! Leave your favorites in the comments, and pin this list for future reference!
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Love this! Thank you so much.
Is there a pdf of this list to hang on the fridge to truly make it grab n go?
Thank you for all your inspiration.
Wow!! Great ideas! I wish I’d had this when my girls were younger and we just threw a sandwich in a baggie and sat under a tree. This is great!! I will have to try these out on my grandsons this summer! Thanks! Love your website, love your blog!! Hopefully someone. Will read this on my Pinterest page and will appreciate the share!
Great ideas!!! I love the mason jar covers! Thanks!! What is your favorite playlist for a fun picnic?
Either my Outdoorsy of Fun in the Sun playlists. I also really like just shuffling music by The Hunts.
All my playlists are here: http://www.thispilgrimlife.com/music-playlists
April L Newell says
Thank you for these ideas! I’m excited to get out with our kiddos! This will make picnics easier haha
Great ideas! We love potato salad at picnics! Thanks for sharing! Pinned so I can save the ideas!
I love this post! I’m always looking for picnic ideas, especially now with the quarantine!
I don’t have kiddos but hope to do lots of hiking once everything opens back up- this will save money on trail snacks! Love your blog Lisa!
We love the outdoors and I love this inspiration and these fresh ideas!! Also love how real and down-to-earth you are!!!
Great picnic ideas. Looking forward to trying some of them. Watermellon is usually one of the foods I like on a picnic.
We’ve gotten a few of the items based on your recommendations! Backpack cooler is on my wishlist. Pinned the recipe lists for later. What’s the brand of your new Costco folding chair? I can’t find it in the website through searches.
It’s Cascade Mountain Tech: https://amzn.to/2YwoB5n
This was a great post filled with ideas. I bought one of the cooler backpacks based on your recommendations and I agree it was the best portable cooler I have ever purchased.
Rachel Williamson says
Thank you! I always need more grab n go ideas for kids!
Kirstin Hopkins says
Thanks for the simple,and nutritious ideas! Anything “snack-like” goes over easiest with my kiddos. This reusable, silicon lids look fun!
The tea towels are such a genius idea!!!
So many great tips for this Summer!!
Love the short Mason jars. They are my favorite for overnight oats. Yay for picnic season. Thanks for the awesome resources and ideas!
Beth Tate says
This is a great list of helpful items when going on a picnic.
Love these ideas!
Lauren Ferrin says
This is a great list. And just in time for spring and summer picnics 👏💕
Great ideas! I’m especially excited about checking out some of that picnic gear.
What a great list!
One of our go to meals for a picnic is egg salad sandwiches! A family favorite:)
I love those little jackets for the jars. That would be really handy. A great list!
Kim F. says
Love the picnic gear and the delicious recipes. I have the cooler on my wishlist!
This is so helpful and amazing! Thanks for sharing your hard work to help us!
Heather T says
I love all the ideas to make a fun and easy picnic with my kids
Sarah F says
Such a great list! I really want to do better at getting my kids outside and doing picnics, I always just feel so unprepared! Maybe I can work on keeping some of these things on hand to help make it easier!
Super excited to try these for everyday lunches as well as for adventures! Thanks for putting this together Lisa!
Super helpful tips. THANK YOU.
Thanks for the ideas! With spending more outside, just in my yard, I love quick and easy picnic food. My kids will eat picnic food better than a traditional meal. They think its snacks.
Really need to check out those mason jar jackets! Would definitely love to get some of those stainless steel water bottles for my nieces and nephews for all their adventures! Great post!
Very helpful and well put together list. Thank you!
Great ideas. I can’t wait to try some of those picnic foods. All I’ve ever done for picnics is sandwiches, so I’m sure my family will love some new things 🙂
Mandy Hammons says
Pinned this so I can come back to it. We love pretzels and grapes when on a picnic. I love the idea of quesadillas.
Wonderful ideas to do with my grandkids. Thanks for all you do!
Lynette Ballmer says
Thank you for these great ideas! I enjoy following you on Instagram. I’ve learned to much from you and you always inspire me to try things I’ve never tried before!
Great ideas and mostly things I already have. I do think that this summer a backpack cooler is a must!
Awesome ideas! I am always trying to basically pack a meal when we do this, and it has kept me from wanting to do outings. Thanks for the ideas and inspiration. Do you have any meal ideas aside from sandwiches that work well?
Ana S says
I always struggle with how to pack stuff. So glad I can now expand my just sandwiches repertoire
Super ideas! We always live a smorgasbord type lunch! Hummus is always a win at our house with pita or pretzel chips!
Love these quick easy lunch ideas! Also are your tea towels the same for what you use for covering bread dough? I look forward to trying some with our kiddos and explore our area. 🙂
Liz C says
We love going on picnics in the spring and summer and this post is full of great ideas. I also love all of your zero waste containers.
What an amazing resource, Lisa! I’m excited to try these out!
Great ideas to keep the hangry at bay while we’re out with the kids in nature this summer! Thanks so much!
Great ideas! We’re trying to eat out less, so these will be great when we want to go out and about but don’t want to eat out.. Thanks for putting this together.
Lots of great ideas! I love the accessories for the mason jars!
So excited for this, I’ve been wanting to step up my picnicking game. Thanks for the one stop shop on this topic.
Awesome ideas ! I needed some fresh ideas for when we go out all together !
Kerri Lamb says
These are great tips for us as campers too! Love it!
Thanks for the inspiration!
Rachel Culp says
Love this! I find my kids eat so much better when we are doing picnic style even if it’s indoors! Thankyou!
This is so neat and thanks for sharing!
I can’t wait to get into the wild with my family with all these tips!
Great ideas! Thank you!
I love these ideas! Thanks for putting this together!
We don’t do picnics nearly as often as we should. My 5yo is a Typ 1 diabetic and somehow „eating out“ is this mental wall for me that I have trouble knocking down, no matter how irrational it is. Making to go lunches would not really be any different from at home lunches, so maybe having a list like this can help jump start me. Thank you for compiling it!
I can’t wait to try your homemade salsa and ranch recipes! I have tried other recipes of yours and they’re loved by my whole family!
CarrieAnn G says
I am so excited about this post! It’s going to be my go to resource this spring/summer. Thank you for all the hard work you put into it!
Laurie Rogers says
Thanks for the great ideas! We live pretty close to a great park, and I needed some food inspiration!
Emily Abbott says
Love all of this! Picnics tend to stress me out because I”m also afraid of not packing enough or waste while we’re out. Definitely could use some practical gear.
I am loving those reusable bags! I need to order some for our future picnics!
Great picnic ideas. Everything tastes better outside. I like the cooler bag, because it looks roomy, but has a streamlined shape.
Love these ideas! We can’t wait to try some out now that the weather is getting nicer in MI. ☺️
Amanda Dickens says
Will try these on our next hike/picnic!
I can’t wait to take my boys on picnics this summer. We love to be outside so I see alot of picnics happening this summer.
Such easy and great ideas for food!
This is an amazing compilation of healthy picnic food ideas!! So many great tips! Sometimes you can feel in a rut with on the go foods. I saved this future reference!! Our go-tos are usually hard boiled eggs, veggies, chips + some sort of homemade dip, soaked oatmeal bars, breakfast cookies, sammies, meats, cheeses, etc.
Yes to easy summer meals on the go! Can’t wait for parks to reopen so we can take along some of these great lunches! Thanks again Lisa!!
I can’t wait for our zoo to reopen. We have a grandparent’s membership. I’m going to look into the backpack cooler you shared as right now we rely on fast food and very expensive zoo food.
Thanks for sharing!
Here’s my picnic hang up: I don’t bring fruit or anything that will attract bees or wasps. Savory picnics all day long but nothing sweet and/or juicy. So we do a lot of veggies and hummus or guacamole and chips. The tea towel idea is perfect because our picnic blanket gets dirty fast as is kind of a hassle to wash. A tea towel on top for when we’re actually eating is a great idea!
Thank you for the post Lisa! Are the reusable bags easy to clean? Thanks
I can’t wait for our zoo to reopen. We have a grandparent’s membership. I’m going to investigate the cooler backpack you shared as right now we’re depending on fast food.
Thanks for sharing! Love all of your reusable items, I want to get some!
Thanks for sharing this! I want to do more picnics with my kids this year…but planning picnic lunches has always felt like so much work!
Great ideas, and I love that cooler backpack! I’ve been looking for one, and it looks like it would be great for hiking and the beach. Thank you!
Allison L. says
I like to have more snack foods on hand during the summer for picnics. Up in New England we are just starting to get warmer temperatures. I am interested in trying some of the 5 minute pudding cup. We have an egg allergy in our family so it is perfect for us.
I can’t wait to picnic with my kiddos this summer 🙂
Such a great list of ideas and love the ideas for containers too!
This list is awesome! We love having picnics, even if it’s just in the backyard. Soo many good food options are here! Thank you for sharing
Love this post! Super helpful to think about with summer approaching. I just found you on IG during the quarantine, and have really enjoyed following you! 🙂
Jennifer Hill says
Love this list!!!
Looks like a fun idea for ideas this summer.
Excited to try these recipes and look at the new gear options!
Love everything in this post! We are going to try to picnic more this summer than in year’s past. ☀️
Are the mason jar lids leak-proof?? I have some boring white ones already, but they leak terribly.
Definitely want to try the sleeves too!! I ❤ jars.
Thanks for all the great ideas, Lisa!!
Love all your great supplies for picnics! You are far more organized than I am! Thanks for the chance to win! And your blog is beautiful!
Kaylee Edwards says
Love the cooler backpack! 😍 thanks for all the picnic ideas Lisa!
Laura Ruffing says
Hi Lisa! I’m sooo looking forward to summer time adventures and your post certainly got me thinking about “all the things” that make it easier! I have already saved that cooler backpack in Amazon…..such a great idea!
Thanks for all the suggestions! I have 5 kids ages 7-10 and they eat a ton! I usually try to do meals at home before we go out, but sometimes it really would be more convenient to pack something.
Love this! Great ideas!
What a great list! Def referencing this for our future picnics.
I’m so excited to start using the jar jackets!! Thanks for the Great tips . We adventure alot and I still came away with a few I will be using right away:)
Do you make your own pimento cheese spread? It looks so yummy! I am a tuna salad lover and I am anxious to try your version. I usually make ours with boiled eggs, pickles, mayo, salt and pepper. Thanks for all the ideas!
Lynne, thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂 I have wanted to try to make homemade pimento cheese spread, but have not done so yet. I buy pimento cheese at Costco for a great price and we love it, so I’m sticking with that for now!
Robyn Wolf says
Thank you posting!! Always helpful hints.